2016 Dodge Charger SXT AWD Review

The New King of Large American Sedans

People everywhere mourned the death of the Panther.

Panther refers to Ford’s large, body-on-frame rear-wheel-drive passenger car architecture that, to name a few, underpinned the Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car. Seen by many as the last great full-size American sedan, the Panther developed quite the cult following over the years. With V8 smoothness, rear-wheel drive, a cushy ride and all the space in the world, the Crown Vic was old school and people loved it.

Why all of this Panther talk in a Dodge Charger review? Well, simply put, the Charger SXT is the new Panther. It’s the new poster child for the traditional, large American sedan. And, no, it isn’t just because the police, rental car companies and fleet operators love the car. It may not be quite the same as rolling land yachts of years past, but it’s the closest modern interpretation we have left.


One of a Kind

Measuring 198.4 inches in length and 75 inches in width, the Charger is a big sedan. Those aren’t quite the gargantuan dimensions of the Crown Victoria, but weighing in at 4,220 pounds as tested, the Charger matches the Ford when it comes to curb weight.

There’s a big 16.5-cubic-foot trunk and rear legroom is generous at 40.1 inches, allowing adults and rear-facing child seats to fit with ease. But, more importantly, from behind the wheel, the Charger SXT feels like a proper, big American sedan. Or maybe more appropriately a proper North American sedan, since it’s assembled in Canada with a Mexican-sourced engine.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is Baby’s First Ride

The Charger is part of a dying breed. Nothing else left on the market is quite like it. Although the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus are just about as big as the Charger, they are different in nature being front-wheel drive based sedans. The closest thing to the Charger in terms of specs and price is the Hyundai Genesis sedan, but even that doesn’t seem like the right fit.


Technology and Customization Abounds

For 2016, the Charger can be had with nearly every modern technology and convenience. Of course, that drives up the price, but features like ventilated seats, active lane keep, LED fog lights and adaptive cruise control can all be had. I still find the front seats a bit too broad and stiff in the upper proportion, but I really like what FCA has done with the rest of the car’s interior.

It’s worth spending some time in the Charger’s menu screens, as the amount of customization available is downright awesome. Things like steering effort, active lane keep aggression and, of course, the various lock and light settings can all be altered to your preference. And while on the topic of customization, the latest version of the UConnect infotainment software allows drivers to set which shortcut buttons are present on the bottom of the screen.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. It’s possible to pick which FCA vehicle is preferred to represent the car’s current location on the navigation screen. Was it really a Challenger or Wrangler that was lusted after, but the need for a family-friendly sedan lead to the purchase of a Charger? Well, at least in the world of navigation, it is possible to have that muscle car or Jeep!


New Twist on the Traditional American Sedan

Power for the Charger SXT comes from a 3.6-liter V6 engine. Before foul is called on how the Charger cannot possibly be a true full-size, all-American sedan with a measly V6 engine under the hood, chew on these numbers: Power is rated at 292 hp on regular gas, which is far more than virtually all of the land yachts, and even torque, listed at 260 lb-ft, isn’t too far off what most of the V8s could muster.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Dodge Charger SXT AWD Review

Opt for the Rallye package and power receives a minor bump to 300 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. But the Rallye package is more than just that. It adds items like the R/T front end with gloss black fascia and grille, a body colored spoiler, steering wheel paddle shifters and a Beats Audio system. It really does add a dose of style and sportiness to the Charger SXT and is a must in my opinion.


Not About Performance

Don’t be fooled by that 300-hp figure. It’s still strapped to a big, heavy car, and acceleration is never all that swift. But that’s not the point of the Charger SXT. If it’s performance you crave, there are no fewer than four V8-powered Chargers available, and one has 707 hp.

ALSO SEE: Dodge Charger Hellcat Review

The point of the Charger SXT is to offer space, comfort and amenities without breaking the bank. To help achieve this, both rear- and all-wheel drive versions come with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s a decent transmission, but it’s not worth playing with the paddle shifters. The eight-speed doesn’t react quick enough to paddle inputs to really enhance the driving experience, even in sport mode.

The point of the eight-speed auto is to help the big, heavy car achieve respectable fuel economy ratings. All-wheel-drive versions are expected to return 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. During my time with the car, I was only able to average 18.2 mpg in mixed driving during wintery conditions on winter tires.


Underrated Chassis

When it comes to the Charger, a lot is discussed about the car’s style, performance and size. The chassis is usually left out like a third child from family photo albums, but it’s actually quite good. Body motions are well controlled for a car this size and it doesn’t wallow down the road like what might be expected from a large American sedan. The latter may be a good or bad thing depending on individual viewpoints.

SEE ALSO: Five-Point Inspection: 2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392

Stability control can be put into sport mode, which allows a little more slip and slide. All-wheel drive Chargers gain a shorter final drive ratio, probably to overcome the extra weight and drivetrain resistance. They also incorporate a planetary center-differential with a front-axle disconnect function.


The Verdict: 2016 Dodge Charger SXT AWD Review

Pricing for the Dodge Charger SXT AWD begins at $32,990 after destination chargers, which may not seem all that affordable and loaded up, it came to $41,680 as tested. But it does include a ton of premium features in a large, all-wheel drive sedan. Plus, if it’s absolute pound for dollar that’s sought after, there is the Charger SE RWD can be had for $28,990.

Although it may not be for everyone, especially those looking for a Honda Accord or Toyota Avalon, the Dodge Charger SXT still does have a place in the automotive world. It offers time-honored space, comfort and style in a full-size car. The traditional American sedan isn’t dead, it has just evolved.

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